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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

PANDERING TO PURITANS: IT'S ELECTION TIME 

If the cross continent transmigrations of Kerry, Edwards and Dean et al, aren't enough to convince you the election season is in full swing, then the circus maximus at today's Senate Commerce Committee hearing should do the trick.

You can always rely on members of Congress to be that last to know about the day to day world inhabited by their constituents, but once they smell votes, its guaranteed they will be the loudest dogs barking at the moon in question.

What transpired today in DC was an old fashioned election year grandstanding party hosted by a group of politicians who have been introduced to a new found (and electorally convenient) reality; TV is a racy medium!! By the way Senators, television is now broadcast - as well as transmitted via cable or satellite - in color! And sorry to drop this bomb on you but Ed Sullivan was canceled.

What woke these Rip Van Winkles from their incumbent slumber was a sleazy dance number performed before millions of eyes on the nation’s holiest day devoted to violence and mass consumption, Super Bowl Sunday. If the performance had not ended with Janet Jackson's right breast singing 'Free Bird' then there would be no such discussion and tax-payer’s money wouldn't be wasted on windbags making good with the conservative voters at home.

Television has been producing lewd, crude, vile and vulgar programming (and that's just the local news) for long enough that no one with a life bats an eye at 'shock value' anymore. We've been 'shocked' so many times that the only real astonishment comes when a program of some taste and discretion makes on in prime time.

“Sweetie, come here quick, hurry!!! This program has no sex, cursing, projectile vomiting or infantile subject matter. Something must be wrong. We paid the cable bill, didn’t we?”

Watching the Senate Committee and FCC Chairman Michael (son of Colin) Powell, moralize as if they’d somehow been betrayed by CBS/Viacom/MTV was (as Mr. Powell described the broadcast in question) a ‘new low’ in pandering to the puritan ninnies on the right. Seeing NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue squirm was actually kind of fun given that he oversees the most successful socialist enterprise in history; if Stalin had had the NFL’s ability to market violence and revenue sharing, we might all watching the COMINTERN Bowl.

Of course this is the same Powell fils that has been pushing to expand the limits of media ownership for the very same organizations he is now criticizing. The idea of major companies such as News Corp, Time Warner, and Viacom owning 45 % of local media outlets isn’t as offensive to the FCC honcho as a nipple flash. But understandably, he has his future as a lobbyist to consider.

Yes, the election year is off to swell start. Tune in to your favorite channel for continuous coverage of candidates who want more of same on Janet’s torso and less on their Congressional records.

Baaaad nEwes 

“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same” – Stendhal

By at least one account, the shepard is in control.

In the event you were already convinced that as a nation of ewes, rams and lambs we are at the doorstep of the political and social abattoir, then the following shouldn’t spoil your breakfast. If, however, you were holding out hope that we might retain some semblance of individualism, then I’d recommend the dry toast and tea.

While on line waiting to be scanned, x-rayed, questioned, de-flowered, exorcised and whatever else passes for security measures at San Jose Airport, 5 different people in front of me handed over their footwear without anyone in a TSA uniform making such a request.

I’m not sure who started the festival of footwear flinging but by the time I got to the conveyer belt and the metal detector, all of the passengers within sight were standing in their stocking feet looking like they’d just been robbed by Buster Brown or had been invited to eat Japanese.

Since I hadn’t heard or seen a request for sole inspections, I tapped the gentleman in front of me and asked, “Uh, excuse me. Did anyone tell you to remove your shoes?”

“No” came the reply, “But, you need to take your shoes off if they are regular shoes, but not shoes like sneakers”. (Please tell me, what are shoes “like sneakers”? Are they similar to, but not actually sneakers? Would anyone -especially a TSA employee -recognize a “like sneaker” if they saw one?)

My head - unlike my shoes - almost exploded from the vacuum of logic that had just been unleashed in that corner of the universe. It was obvious that if the first person in line had removed his own tongue with a carrot scraper and volunteered a stool sample to security personnel, this guy would have followed suit, no questions asked.

Once I regained feeling in my frontal lobe, I asked myself, “Wasn’t the master criminal who started this whole shoe bomb fad wearing a pair of C-4 enhanced sneakers?” Answer, “He sure was.”

(And why the hell do you think they call them ‘sneakers’ in the first place?)

Sensing the distinct smell of the herd (and way too many unshod feet) I instinctively kept my shoes on in order to inspire a request for their removal. None came. No such requirement. Security didn’t even look at my feet much less ask to see them in all their cotton covered glory.

What I had witnessed was a group of Americans which had voluntarily handed over their privacy, no questions asked, no actions demanded.

So how’s that breakfast holding?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

DANIEL PEARL'S DEATH and PAKISTANI DECEPTION 

The public confession of Pakistan's chief nuclear scientist that he has been moonlighting as a distributor of atomic weapons secrets brings Bernard-Henri Levy's "Who Killed Daniel Pearl"
back into the spotlight.

In short, Levy's work makes the case that the Wall Street Journal reporter was killed because he had become too close to the embarrassing and deadly interconnection between Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI), it's atomic weapons program and radical Islamists like Osama Bin Laden. In effect, a fractured Pakistan where elements of radical fundamentalism dominate key agencies and work in direct contrast to the public pronouncements of President Musharraf.


With Abdul Qadeer Khan's televised mea culpa, we now know what was feared all along, that Pakistan is more dangerous than Afghanistan and Iraq combined, and despite Musharraf's efforts to cast a friendly glance to the west, his country is a nuclear bazaar and and a safe haven for Muslim extremists.


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